New Test Post for You and Yours


The story is told about a little child who was so tiny he was no bigger than the end of your little finger. Hence he was named Little Pinky-end. His parents were poor CPAs and couldn’t support their teeming brood, so they sold them to the wolves.

Charlie Krafft’s Lovecraft Award Is a Hit


As some people on Twitter have noticed, an organization called Counter-Currents Publishing has launched an “H. P. Lovecraft Prize for Literature.” The accolade is, in part, a rebuttal to the World Fantasy Awards’ recent decision to stop using a sculpted likeness of the author for their trophy — because although he’s now a canonized writer of horror fiction, Lovecraft was also an explicit racist. The Counter-Currents prize in his honor will be “awarded to literary artists of the highest caliber who transgress the boundaries of political correctness.” And it will consist of — what else? — a bust of Lovecraft, sculpted by none other than Charles Krafft.

Read rest here.

Jon Gnagy, Master of Simple Shapes, Dies at 119


The first “g” … was silent.

Jon Gnagy, the TV drawing teacher who showed millions how to turn a simple triangle into a cocker spaniel, died yesterday in his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 119 years old.

Burial will be next week in the Old Moldovian Cemetery, Ridgefield CT.

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the burial place of popular TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. The actual name of the cemetery the Old Moravian Cemetery, and it is in Trumbull, CT, not Ridgefield as stated. In addition, the Gnagy family decided to have the deceased member cremated at the Milford Crematorium (formerly the Milford Jai-Alai Fronton) because “burial is just too damn much trouble.”

CORRECTION: The above obituary misstated the death year of TV art instructor Jon Gnagy. Mr. Gnagy actually passed away in 1981.

Stalking the Wild Jackson Whites


My friend Sallie writes,


Zoom Zoom Zoom
For everyone who feels inclined, A kiddie show we hope to find…

Does anyone remember Zoom? It was a kiddie show in the 1970s. Kids in bare feet and striped jerseys, improvising the program as they went along. It was invented by an English TV producer named Chris Sarsen, who really pulled the wool over the eyes of the producers at WGBH in Boston, the educational-tv channel. But whatever its initial hokum, it got momentum and a life of its own and lasted through the seventies.

You didn’t need much cultural heft to make it in the Boston TV market in the 1970s, I’ll grant you. That old warhorse Rex Trailer, a kiddie-show host who began his career in Philadelphia right after WW2, had what amounted to a permanent sinecure on the Boston educational channel. He had something called Earth Lab, a version of  the Mr. Wizard science show, and there was a long-running thing called Boomtown, and at least a half-dozen other kiddie programs that Rex put on across the country. None of the Rex Trailer product was particularly good, but in the 70s no one was particularly critical. Boston was a strange tide-pool of media; it liked to think it was on the cutting-edge, because it had MIT and Harvard in abundance; but really it was a backwater, a New England college town with delusions of grandeur.

Somehow I fell in with this Mister Hornblower, about 30 years of age. He lived in a tiny, triangular-shaped studio apartment in Greenwich Village. He was a pederast, and appropriately enough the apartment was on Gay Street. He had feeble little jobs writing or editing TV scripts, which he worked on during those hours of the day when he was not entirely immersed in marijuana, vodka, or picking up 14-year-old boys on the dock at the end of Christopher Street.

I fell in with Hornblower because I was walking a neighbor’s dog out on the dock on one of those very sunny winter days when the sun is low in the sky and gets in your eyes. Would I like to be in his new educational-tv kiddie show? Oh sure, I said. I had no idea that I was the first female. Shortly afterwards Hornblower started riding me to get another female member of the kiddie-show cast.  So I brought in my best friend. She dropped out of high school dropped out of Hornblower, went out to Hollywood and became a big star, at least for a few years.

Somewhere along the line, Hornblower felt obliged to come up with “plot” or “theme” ideas for the kiddie shows. Someone brought him the story of the Jackson Whites in northern New Jersey. Hornblower thought it would be a good idea to go visit these Jackson Whites  and put them in his kiddie show. Wouldn’t everyone want to be in an afternoon kiddie show?

Apparently the Jackson Whites didn’t care for it. Hornblower stayed in a motel in the region, accompanied by two of his favorite teenage male companions. While he slept, someone torched his car. The car was a rental. Hornblower spent years sorting out the liability. He soon gave up the idea of regarding himself a kiddie-show producer.

New Plasticene Hummel Kit with the D-I-Y Flavour


hummel-Figurine-Ts111611-7405Franz Liverwurst, copartner of W. Goebel Porzelanfabrik in Oeslau near Coburg discovered a book with Hummel motifs. It was love at first sight and led to a contract with the artist in 1934.

The sculptors Reinhold Unno (1880-1974) and Arthur Kelly (1886-1972) devoted all their energies to develop the three-dimensions models for the later Hummel figurines from doodles.

The very first GIs who came to Germany swapped cigarettes and cans of Spam for Hummel figurines. Since then they have risen in value. Former First Lady, Betty Flossenburg, owns a cabinet full of them. President Ronald Rivkin received a gift of the Quartet of Puppies on his visit to Bitburg.

A Common House Pet Becomes a Harbor Seal


Puijila_BWPuijila darwini resembles a common house pet, and could easily be mistaken for an otter or large stoat. However, it is actually the ancestor of the walrus, sea lion, harbor seal, and other popular members of the pinniped family. What happened was that it swam in freshwater lakes and streams and somehow got washed out to sea.

Vladimir Putin and the World of Art


The world was in quite a pickle in 1944, the year Vladimir Putin was born. The Germans were being chased out of the Baltic Countries (soon to become slave satrapies of the USSR) and the historic Hanseatic Port of Riga was now a huge concentration camp, where eleven million prisoners of all nationalities were forced to build Liberty Ships until they dropped dead from hunger.

putinLittle Vladimir knew nothing of this. His father was a leading apparatchiknik in the Bottle City of Kandor, beyond the Urals. Vlad lived a sheltered life. So sheltered that when he was fourteen and sent to prep school, the other boys laughed at him when the instructor asked for High Points of the Great Patriotic War and Vladimir Putin suggested the Battle of Mukden.

Vladimir didn’t mind. He consoled himself with his Paint-by-Numbers set (a legacy from his wealthy aunt) and dreamt of the day when the finest trollops and art galleries down Nevsky Prospekt would vie for his favors.

How Vladimir loved coming home for the long holidays! The soft incandescent light burning in the hallways, showing the way to the Fabergé-tiled washroom with the gold-plated faucets; for this had once been the dacha of Grand Duke Nicholas.

Philly-pretzel“Would you like soft pretzel for little breakfast, Vladimir Ivanovichki?” his mother whistled down the hall, using the diminutive of the familiar patronymic. “Soft pretzel good, come all way from Philadelphiosk!”

Soft Pretzels in the Quaker City


How did soft pretzels conquer the Quaker City? It all began about 1850, when an order of nuns decided to bake and sell soft pretzels in order to raise money for a school softball team. In those days pretzels cost only one cent, or three pretzels for a nickel. Soon someone noticed that it all looked like a scam, as softball hadn’t been invented yet. “This is true,” said Mother Superior Annabelle Drexel, OSX, “there is no softball. In truth, we are raising money for our field hockey and cricket teams.” Such a scandal resulted from this admission that the order of nuns had to move themselves and their school out to the farmlands of Radnor, where they built a pretzel factory that lasts to this day.

Art for the Masses


A glorious thing with fiction, art, poetry, and protest from the irreverent radical magazine that shocked American manners and morals. Begun in Greenwich Village in 1911 and ended by the Post Office in 1917, The Masses’ circulation was never large. But the magazine was big in importance and excitement, had a splendid sense of humor, and rang bells worth hearing today. In these pages you will find brilliant artists and cartoonists, some of the best journalists in our history, shrewd and caustic propagandists, and gifted poets and writers of fiction. The 9×12 format beautifully displays the contributions of Sherwood Bloo, Stuart Gosdick, Jack Dumm, Emma Gefiltefish, Louis Sugarman, George Blowhard, Floyd Cowbell, Art Jung, Boardman Swissfam, Upton Dinosaur, Amy Armadildo, Carl Rutabaga, John Rural, and a million others.

[jwplayer player=”1″ mediaid=”43″]C’mon Get Happy, 1929, with Joe Frisco

Series of Poems You Ought to Know


The Conundrum of the Workshops
By Rudyard Kipling

WHEN the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”

baphomet01Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew— 5
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled: “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?” 10
The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue.

They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west,
Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—
Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start, 15
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”

The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth—
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?” 20

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”

When the flicker of London’s sun falls faint on the club-room’s green and gold, 25
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold—
They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start
When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it art?”

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow,
And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago, 30
And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through,
By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.

Low Man on Totem Pole


Results aren’t in yet, but it appears that Gravlax Hoonersby, Jr. has been unanimously voted Low Man on the Totem Pole.

I am not astounded by the ostensible recipient; I always knew Hoonersby had it in him. What amazes me is that the Totem Pole Society of Greater Lankenau created the award in the first place.

lowmantotempoleYou know how it is with awards. They are usually given out at some public gathering or ceremony, with the photographer from the Daily Yokel Gazette in attendance. A middle-aged man in a well-cut suit (or an elderly lady in a very ill-cut but expensive suit) is seen handing a trophy or plaque or large cardboard citation to someone, and that’s the lead photo on tomorrow’s newspaper.

Sometimes it’s a cop who’s getting the award, sometimes it’s one of the Boy Sprouts. Once, when I was covering the financial beat for the Winnetka Star-Mucilage, I saw a lady in full Scottish regalia receiving a scroll.

It was quite impressive. She had a tartan sash, and kilt, and plaid overseas cap. The works. A sporran too, I think, not that she needed one.

My guess was she was dressed that way because she had to go to a fancy-dress party right afterwards. She probably worked the award into her act, said she was playing the headmistress at awards day at a Scottish boarding school.

scottish-costume-awardI wonder how well that went over in Winnetka. There are lots of Scots in the North Shore area, but they’re not really your boarding-school types. Schoolteachers and electricians mainly, the kind of folks who think they’re lucky if their kid gets into New Trier West.

And as for that big certificate she received, I’ll bet she gave it away to some guy dressed as Syngman Rhee, and now this Rhee fellow, who is actually a CPA named Angus McGlamorhoochie, has the award for being Top Scottish Lady or whatever the thing says.

I missed the Midwestern love of plaques and trophies when the syndicate hired me and sent me east to Philadelphia. In the City of Brotherly Love they are very stingy with their awards. In fact, the only award I ever saw anybody ever get (apart from the annual newspapermen’s shindig, where everyone gets a prize) was for soft pretzels.

Pretzels in the Quaker City are quite unlike anything you’ve had anywhere else. Imagine some kneaded bread dough that’s been rolled into a figure-eight the length of a baby’s arm,  broiled a few minutes on both sides, misted with water and sprinkled with rock salt.

Actually that’s pretty difficult to imagine.

Pretzel_boys-1But what you end up with are  these soft, damp, salted ropes of dough, sold out of brown paper bags on every street corner in Center City. Everyone buys them. Not just one—they used to be a nickel, now they’re usually a dime—but three or four at a time! They come conjoined, like egg cartons. The salesman just breaks off a rack of four or five and you hand him your fifty-cent piece.

Speaking of Ben Franklin, they didn’t have soft pretzels in his day. In those days Philadelphia was famous for things like pepper-pot soup. And I think oatmeal. That’s why there’s an old Quaker on the Quaker Oats box!

Bet you didn’t know that!

Next week: All About Philadelphia and Soft Pretzels!

Video tests


C’mon Get Happy, 1929, with Joe Frisco

Our friend David Sheean of Galena, Illinois writes that he is looking for information on and friends of the late Joe Frisco.